God loved the world so much…and so should we.
In the past week, I was thinking about a tin of salmon. From the person catching the fish in Alaska to me putting it on the bench, how many different groups of people co-operated with each other for this to happen? The number would be well in the hundreds – from the fishing crew, the boat builders, the various service agents, the label designers, the manufacturers of the printing dyes – at that doesn’t even get the tin out of North America. Hundreds of different groups of people co-operating with each other makes a miracle of social harmony symbolised in that tin of fish! And this social harmony happens every day with nearly everything we touch.
But you wouldn’t think so by following the media or listening to people. We tend to narrow our vision and focus on when the social harmony breaks down. In Lent, we are called to repent – to change our way of thinking. Recognising the co-operation that is integral to our life together as human beings is one area where we could change our thinking. The Son of God, was born, lived our life, died and rose again because God loved the world so much! God well knows the sin of human failure and dissension but continues to love the world, us, the seething mass of humanity, so much. So let us be God-like and set our minds and hearts upon appreciating the good that is around us and between us.
Loving God, send us your Spirit that we may recognise and appreciate the many, many times we work together in harmony. May we recognise the Spirit of Jesus moving through humanity teaching us to love the world as you did. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Whatever you do, keep holding hands.
One of the most poignant effects of mobile phones is what happens when people get caught in disasters. Facing their death, they ring their loved ones to tell them how much they love them. Like most of us, they probably went through life taking the next day for granted and in that mindset would have had all the usual discussions and disagreements with the ones they love. Now with only a few moments left they want to convey all the preciousness of their love. No-one ever rings to have the last word in an argument.
This experience raises the question: how are we to go through life, expressing our love, yet still having all the problems that normal relationships entail. I heard of a practice of Marriage Encounter. At one stage in that programme, the couple were to sit holding hands and then they could say whatever they wanted or needed to say to each other – so long as they kept holding hands. The holding of hands expressed a love deeper than any pain or hurt that may have been expressed. In our life together, we need small rituals like this to convey to each other that our love transcends any ‘problems’ that arise between us. So if we never get the chance to make that final call, our love still would have been expressed.
We need that too in our relationship with God. At times we do not like what God is doing in our lives, and we need to be frank about how we feel, so long as we keep holding hands with God. No matter what we say or do, we can be assured God will never drop our hands.
Loving God you want us to love like you.. Send us your Spirit to strengthen our love so that whatever difficulties we face we may continue ‘to hold hands’ with each other in love. We ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
In the movie “Play it Forward”, a young boy, Trevor, reverses the usual order on giving. When he gives to people he doesn’t want them to pay him back but rather to give his generosity ‘forward’ to three other people, who, in turn, are to give forward generously. The idea challenges our assumptions on generosity. Too often we have some type of account system going on in our heads when we give: “I did that for him last week, so now he should…”, “I gave her that for her birthday and she didn’t thank me properly…” and then “Do they deserve it?” Well, if they deserved it, it wouldn’t be generosity on our part but justice.
It can be a tough old world and Trevor’s idea hits a few bumps but ultimately it transforms people’s lives. Even though he is ‘only a kid’, and one from a difficult, poor situation, he leads a rich life. Each of us know people in our community who, giving freely of themselves, have open hearts and full lives. Even if they have no things to give, they share a kind word and a smile. They are often very cluey to what games other people may be playing but they don’t let that stop their generosity. And they are good to be with – of course they are, they are like God.
In this coming week, think about a few of these generous hearted people that you know and point them out to your children. Let them know how such people are esteemed and loved. They are amongst the best role models you can give them.
Loving God, your generosity surrounds us all our days. May your Spirit transform our hearts that we may give as Jesus did – from a full and generous heart. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris
How to say ‘Thank You’
I read up a book drawn by its quirky title: Adulting: How to become an adult in 468 easy(ish) ways.* Even though I am out of the age range of the intended audience by about three decades, I thought I might learn some things. I did, like ‘How to write a Thank you note’. The formula went as follows:
1. Focus on the other person, i.e. begin ‘You…’
2. List great aspects of the present/action/gift for which you are thanking them.
3. End with the ‘Thank you…’
Notice how the ‘Thank you’ came at the end of the note, not the beginning. We need to actually revel in the good qualities of something before we can express thanks. Thanking too soon can cut short our chance to really appreciate what we have received but taking the time to linger in the enjoyment adds to our pleasure and the good feeling of the person receiving our note.
The same can apply to God. We all know that we ‘should’ be grateful but perhaps we have that sense of ‘should’ because we haven’t given ourselves the time to linger in enjoyment of the good things we have received. One of the integral parts of the Christian practice of Sunday was to take time to rest and enjoy. This is part of worship. No matter how energetic or committed we are, we need time to relax and take pleasure in just being. And when we have done this, we find that the words, ‘Thank you, God’ just finish off nicely that time of joy.
Loving God, slow me down some time so that I have some time to slow down and enjoy the good things that have come my way. Let me fill up on the pleasure of these people and things so that ‘Thank you” rises freely from my spirit.
*By Kelly Williams Brown. Sr Kym Harris osb
Recently, Frances Whiting in an article suggested that we take up writing love letters and she shared one that she had written. No, it wasn’t to her husband, children, Mum or even her younger self. It was to librarians. In it she thanks them for all the amazing things they had done in her life and in the lives of others. It was such a gracious generous letter.
It led me to pondering, who would I write to? Very quickly, the Road Team of Livingstone Shire came to mind. We had an intersection that I dreaded crossing. Every time we used it going to the pool we felt like we were risking our lives. Then the council put in lights. They have been in for nearly two years now and I still find myself saying a prayer for the crew that put them in. I told this to the Town Engineer (he is in our parish) and he seemed quite chuffed that their work had been consciously appreciated.
Noticing the good that others do, appreciating it and thanking them for it, even in an anonymous way makes a difference. It changes us and how we deal with people, how we deal with life. We become more gracious. When we see this good, it helps us do and be good. We enter into the circle of care that makes our world a welcoming place to live it. Even though we may not consciously think of God, we are acknowledging and welcoming the grace that is the basis of a happy life.
So who would you write to?
Loving God, help we to recognise the many people who create the goodness that surrounds my life. Give me a sense of gratitude for what they have done and when I have the opportunity let me express my thanks. I ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear me….and thank you for all the good you are doing in my life.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Give and it will be given to you.
‘What goes around, comes around, though not necessarily back from the same people.’ So said my brother and his wife after they had been through a particularly challenging period. They had gone bankrupt and were on the road with their family, taking work where it was available. At that time, they met with great kindness from the poor in the caravan parks of the east coast of Australia. Oh yes, there were challenging people there but they are not the ones they focused on. My brother and his wife also gave, and continue to do so for they know that giving generously and freely without thinking of return is what makes us into a community; it is also what makes us fully human.
Next Sunday’s Gospel is the particularly challenging text when Jesus tells us to love and to give without any thought of return. We are to be like God giving without any expectation of getting back what we have given. That is hard for us. We want to make sure ‘number 1’ is protected and not cheated. But to come to real happiness and peace, we need that revolution of the heart and soul that gives out instead of taking for oneself.
The amazing thing about living that way, is that we become alive to all the myriad ways in which we are already receiving from God and others. What we thought we were giving away, it only a generous gift that has already come our way. Instead of being solitary beings protecting ourselves and our things are all cost, we find we are part of the generous community of life.
Loving God, let me appreciate all that I have received from you and from others and then let me give generously with a light and happy heart. I ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear me.
Sr Kym Harris osb
A time to give…a time to receive.
In Japan, the custom when receiving another person’s business card is to take it in both hands and bow to the person giving. It is almost a religious act. There is a lesson here for us in how to receive the gifts we shall receive in the coming weeks. We put plenty of thought, energy, expense and even time in getting and sending our gifts. How much effort do we put into receiving them? Gifts are symbols of our relationship. Gifts received graciously are gifts given more than twice over. And sometimes it takes some effort and ingenuity to receive well. It is possible the gift we receive is not something we want. It is possible that we have doubts about the person’s motive. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have the opportunity to make something rich and precious out of the situation. This takes thoughtfulness, sensitivity and a buoyancy of spirit on our part.
And so it is with God. God is giving to us all the time. If we feel God is remote from our lives, perhaps it is because we haven’t been truly receiving the gifts we are being given. Oh, we get them alright but we have to receive them into our lives into our hearts. If we just turn to God when we are in ‘need’, our relationship with God will be pretty unsatisfactory, as are all relationships just based on need. Actively receiving and being grateful for what we receive both from God and from family and friends can enrich and deepen our relationships and our lives. May this Christmas be glorious for you in giving and receiving and may the presents you give and receive be signs of deep and bonding love.
Loving God, may we find joy giving and receiving gifts this Christmas. As we celebrate the gift of your Son, Jesus, may we become present to each other as we give and receive. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb